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Story entitled 'Ceudach Nan Collachain Oir' and accompanying note, 29 January 1875

Identifier: Coll-97/CW106/127

Scope and Contents

Story entitled 'Ceudach Nan Collachain Oir' probably collected from John MacInnes, aged 70 years, Stadhlaigearraidh/Stilligarry, Uibhist a Deas/South Uist. The story begins with Fionn and his men out hunting. They have so much success that they decide to leave some of it for collection on the way home. Gille Glas appears and asks to be employed by Fionn so Fionn has him help take the kill home. Caoilte, the fastest Fenian, and the Gille Glas arrive at the feasting hall before anyone else and set up the feast, which impresses Fionn and he honours the Gille Glas for this and Caoillte becomes jealous. Caoillte then challenges the gille glas to a game of chess but Gille Glas loses and so a forfeit is set: Gille Glas is to return with the head of the Ceardach Dugh [Dark Blacksmith] and to drink a cup full of his blood. If he does not manage then Caoillte is allowed to cut his head off instead. The gille glas goes to Scotland and finds Ceardach Dubh but fails to bring back his head. He pleads with Caoilte to keep his head and instead challenges him to another game of chess, which Gille Glas wins again. This time the forfeit is [to race to the top of Beinn-eudainn. Caoillte knows the roads well and takes off but Gille Glas toils and stops, when he sees a learg [black-throated diver] which he kills, then waits for a tree to float towards him and uses it to cross the loch. He reaches the top of the mountain, builds a fire and cooks the learg, eats it and falls asleep. On wakening he sees Caolilte coming over the summit. Caoilte is mystified as he thought he had done his best but for losing he must lose his head but Gille Glas decides that he will just tie him up and leaves him there.

On his return to the Fenians Gille Glas finds that Caoillte is missed by the other warriors. He tells Fionn that Caoillte had not waited for him and so early the next day Fionn and his men go to look for Caoillte and they find him tied to the hill where Gille Glas had left him. Try as they might the Fenians cannot free him. While they are deciding on the best way to free Caoillte, a mist descends and a man appears. The man is Ceudach na Collachain Oir and he says he is looking for his quarters and his wife. Fionn recognises the name and tells Ceudach what has gone before. Ceudach pulls Caoillte free and Fionn promised to reward him by giving him his own house or one of a choice of seven rooms. Ceudach choses the latter. Fionn and [Ceudach] go hunting throughout Ireland and on their return Fionn's wife demands that he plays chess after which his wife says that she wants him to bring back the head of Toman-Fheoir. Fionn goes to see Ceudach and tells him what she has requested. Ceudach replies that if he loved his wife as much as his wife loved him [Ceudach] she would not put this spell on him. eudach tells Fionn to get all the dogs and men together and they go off to get the creature's head for Fionn's wife. Ceudach manages to chop of the Toman Fheoir's head and gives it to Fionn. On arriving home with the head in his fist, Fionn is pleased to hear his wife offering him food and clean clothes and he lets go of the head. They sit to play chess, Fionn wins and his wife demands the head of Bheagan-blath. Again Fionn goes to Ceudach but this time Ceudach refuses to go with Fionn to get the head. Fionn then decides that he will refuse to get up until he gets his request. Three times his wife promises that he will get his wish if he gets up, whereupon Fionn states that his wish is for Ceudach to get the head of Bheagan-blath. Fionn and Ceudach set off in a boat and when they arrive at Bheagan-blath's kingdom, Ceudach tells Fionn to wait in the boat while he goes ashore. Dressed in a fancy suit he wanders around outside Bheagan-blath's palace until he is invited in. Ceudach tricks Bheagan-blath into coming outside to meet him instead and manages to decapitate him. He takes Bheagan-blath's head back to the boat and they take off as fast as they can for as long as they can. They come across an island and decide to rest there but when they awake they discover that a forest of trees has grown up around them. They are then attacked by a host of people and although Ceudach is killed Fionn manages to escape and he eventually encounters Ceudach's wife. She and Fionn manage to pull Ceudach out of a hole and then she takes a bottle out of her pocket and revives Ceudach with it. They then head off to find Ceudach and his wife's son. They set sail and find a large dwelling above the landing and decide to spend the night there. The castle is guarded by billy goats and a fight ensues, with each man throwing a goat into a tub of ointment and turning them to a heap of bones. A man in a boat appears and recognises Ceudach, who then performs a feat of strength. The man assures him that he will not die and that he has a faithful master. When asked, the man refuses to give his name but instructs Ceudach to spend the night at his neighbour's house, to wander up and down in front of the house, whereupon his daughter will fall in love with him and they will marry. On his wedding night and the following two nights he is to keep an unsheathed sword in the bed between him and his wife and to pretend to her that it is the custom in his country to do so. On the fourth night his wife will fall asleep and he can get the keys from under her pillow. This he does and meets the man outside with the keys as agreed and heads off to the park] where he opens the door and gets inside and finds the well which makes the old young and the well which makes the young old, and takes two bottles from the wells. They arrive back at Suil's house and Suil's wife complains that her husband is young again. They go back to the well and reverse the effects and give a bottle of it to Ceudach's wife. Fionn returns home to find his wife has remarried because she had not expected him to return. Ceudach asks Fionn to strike her with Bheagan-blath's head so that she can turn into a heap of bones, which he does and she expires. Lastly, Fionn marries again and Ceudach and his wife are present also.

The note states that MacInnes heard the story when he was a little boy from Donald MacPhie - 'Donl Mac Aonais ic Phreiseis' who lived in Carnan and died five or six years before [c. 1870]. In the middle of the story there is a note about the bird learg [black-throated diver] describing its call and how it breeds in Uibhist/Uist, the reciter having seen its nest. There is also a vocabulary note which reads 'Mitheach = duine beag meata' [feeble little man].


  • Creation: 29 January 1875

Language of Materials

Gaelic English

Conditions Governing Access

This material is unrestricted.


From the Series: 117 folios ; 20 x 16.5 cm